MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) After a six-month break, the Philippine Basketball Association will finally return to action on October 11.
This, after the league received provisional approval from the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) to resume its season in a bubble that will be held in Clark, Pampanga.
PBA chairman Ricky Vargas announced Thursday that they have received the provisional approval, and that the league is ready to restart the season that was suspended in March due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
"We are happy, we are ready, the players are ready to go. I guess, it's all now in the hands of our commissioner to see this executed to perfection," Vargas said.
The approval comes a week after the PBA granted hosting rights to Clark, with Bases Conversion and Development Authority president Vince Dizon making the pitch to the Board of Governors and commissioner Willie Marcial.
The teams will be housed at Quest Hotel, located at Mimosa Estate, while games will be played at the Angeles University Foundation gym which is a 10-minute ride from the hotel.
At the moment, the PBA teams are undergoing a five-day quarantine in their own homes after being tested on Wednesday and Thursday. They are set to leave for Clark on September 28 and 29, after which they will again be tested for COVID-19.
Those who return negative results the next day can begin scrimmages, and the All-Filipino Conference will resume officially on October 11.
"Eto na po, maglalaro na po ang PBA. Maglalaro at makikita niyo na po kami sa mga tahanan ninyo," said Marcial.
Dizon assured that the teams will be safe and secure in Clark, with stringent protocols in place for the players, coaches, and staff.
"There will be pre-entry protocols," Dizon explained. "Everybody will need to get tested using RT-PCR. Before they enter the bubble, they have to spend five days under strict home quarantine… to ensure that they don't have contact with anybody before they enter the bubble."
"After five days, they will be tested again before the bubble officially starts, and they will be tested in Clark. While they're waiting for the results, they will be quarantined in their hotel rooms for more or less about 24 hours," he added.
"Once their results come out and they are negative, then they can begin playing in the bubble."
Teams are required to submit their final line-ups to the Office of the Commissioner on Friday. Already, at least one player -- NLEX's Larry Fonacier -- has opted out of playing in the restart for family reasons.
With the PBA looking to finish the conference before Christmas, the schedule will be compressed. Double-headers will be held daily, with teams likely to play games on back-to-back days. Marcial anticipates that the season will end midway through December.